Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Hotel Dining’

The Peninsula Hotel Chicago

Posted 14 Apr 2010 — by S.E.
Category Hotels

Peninsula Hotel Lobby

A recent trip to Chicago landed me at the Peninsula Hotel on East Superior Street visiting with a friend who serves on their management team. I have known him for nearly two decades but like most guys my age, only contact him live once every couple of years to check in and see how he’s doing. It was late on a Saturday afternoon when I called him just after my plane landed at Midway. We had prearranged our meeting at the hotel a couple of days earlier and he was just finishing up for the day when we connected. After a quick cab ride from the airport I was on my way up in the elevator to the hotel lobby on the fifth floor. From the minute I got out of the cab the five-star service this hotel is known for was evident. It was even more apparent when the elevator opened on the fifth floor and I stepped out. The main lobby was elegant with its shiny, coral colored stone floor, cream colored walls, lightly vaulted ceiling, potted plants and cherry storefront display cases. Straight off the elevator down a long, pleasant corridor is the main reception desk.

Pastry Buffet

The lobby restaurant is off to the right of the reception desk on the same floor. The exterior wall of the lobby restaurant consists of a series of two story high windows looking out over an expansive patio. The fit and finish of the space is extraordinary. Looking up, the coffered ceiling consists of a wonderful series of large squares inset periodically with a recessed circle where delicate crystal chandeliers hang like falling water. Although architecturally stunning, the dessert buffet in the middle of the room was even more impressive. On Saturday evenings, the Peninsula offers guests what has become one of the most popular classical dessert buffets in the city. Looking over the selections, it is likely that the Peninsula is the only hotel in the city producing this quality of work. The display exhibited a level of craftsmanship rare in today’s culinary world. My first inclination was to start grazing. Instead we took off up the elevator to the Peninsula suite for a tour.

Peninsula Suite Sitting Room

The Peninsula suite, located on the 18th floor, is the hotels premier accommodation with up to three bedrooms, a dining room, living room, office, media room, massive bathroom, fireplace and terrace overlooking Michigan Avenue. The entrance to the Peninsula  suite was staid and unremarkable but the suite itself was anything but. Once the lights were on, I noticed more custom light fixtures along with high end furnishings, custom millwork, tile and granite, and museum quality art throughout. The suite runs $8000 per night.

We wrapped up our tour with dinner at Shanghai Terrace the hotels premiere Shanghainese – Cantonese restaurant. Shanghai Terrace, with its expansive hardwood floor, slat-back mahogany colored chairs, high ceiling and wispy curtains, has a traditional Chinese dinner club feel to it. The servers wear pressed red jackets and float through the dining room with grace.

King Crab

Our meal started with a taste of king crab with pickled vegetables. The tiny portion was a perfect start. Lightly coated with rice flour and quickly fried, the crispy, salty, savory crab was offset by the chilled acidic vegetables and micro greens.

A delicious Peking duck followed the king crab. First, a small bamboo steamer arrived with mandarin pancakes and a yin yang shaped plate with two sauces. A large plate of hot roasted duck with julienne scallion and cucumber came next. The pancakes were savory, light in texture and warm through the center. When rolled with a couple pieces of duck breast, scallion, cucumber and hoisin sauce, they were a delicious appetizer.

Dim sum was next! I love dim sum. Shanghai Terrace’s dim sum has a high degree of  Cantonese authenticity. The


 sampling we tasted had a seared pork dumpling, steamed vegetable dumpling and crispy shrimp spring roll with dipping sauce.

The fourth course was a broiled sea scallop with fresh soy beans in spicy mapo sauce with diced tofu. Those of you that know me know that I love seafood. This scallop was perfectly broiled and tasted fantastic. In addition to taste, textural contrast was what made this dish so good (diced tofu, scallop, fresh soybean, and crispy fried noodle). The portion size was perfect too. Four courses in, I am not yet sated and have room for more.

Four small entrée dishes served family style arrived as the fifth course. These consisted of : 1) “Dong Bo” Pork Belly braised with red miso, palm sugar, star anise, shanghai rice cake and braised jus, 2)

Pork Belly & Steamed Fish

Steamed Halibut with spicy black beans, flower mushrooms, ginger, scallions, yu choy, 3) Wok Braised Lobster with bok choy, ginger, scallion and superior broth, 4) Crispy Tofu with enokitaki, vegetables, garlic and mushroom jus. Each of these dishes had a modern flair with a high degree of Japanese influence. My favorite was the pork belly followed by the lobster. Now I am getting full!

We wrapped things up with a dessert sampler consisting of four small plated items: 1) Green Tea Crème Brulee with chestnut confit and passion fruit sorbet, 2) Pistachio Parfait, pineapple cilantro salad, coconut pearls, 3) Asian Pear and Almond Spring Rolls with honey peanuts and chocolate sauce, 4) Tofu Cheesecake with citrus salad, crispy coconut rice noodles. Of these my favorite was the Green Tea Crème Brulee.

Dessert Platter


It was a quick visit lasting just under three hours but a fantastic one regardless of duration. My host was in rare form and we spent time savoring our meal while also tearing it to peices the way chefs do. Coversation flowed from food to family to mutual friends and prior experiences together, many of which were halirous both then and now. The meal was exceptional as was the company. Foodservice is all about the people and good people make for the best restauranteurs.